Some time ago I wrote about the Best Cat In The World.
We said goodbye last night. Even when you know it’s going to happen, it’s always a knife edge between too late and too soon, because most often you assume the honor and godawful responsibility of deciding when to do something. So I write to you with the assistance of several grams (and counting) of tetracycline, because I wanted to hold Apricat Houdini Mitzvah Valjean Beezler (his full name — at 16 pounds plus explosively fluffy coat, it took a long name to wrap around him). While they were setting the IV in his forepaw he bit me. Yowch.
He bit me when I took him in, so this is symmetry. I don’ t hold it against him. We all have done worse out of fear, pain or panic. He gave me something to remember him.
It was about the most ginger he’d shown since Tuesday. He was nowhere to be found yesterday morning. I finally discovered him standing stockstill behind the refrigerator with his head pushed into the corner — a performance he would repeat in various locations over the next couple of days. Something had happened overnight. He was no longer just slow and drowsy; he really didn’t seem to know what he was doing or where he was.
Anyone who has animals knows about the hours and days after seeing a change like that. Certainty came easier when he was just lethargic and didn’t react to handling; when a cat who has acted that way gets up again and starts tottering around the room, you once again don’t know what to expect or do. But finally he didn’t eat when I put down food. He didn’t even recognize there was food in front of him. That settled it. No one loved food more than that cat.
When I wrote about him before, he could still see a little; several weeks ago, he went from grazing and near-missing to walking dead into things. He could still navigate by ear and whisker, but he couldn’t see his cat family, or me, or anyone; he drifted, his encounters with the world increasingly clumsy, accidental, but not yet so devoid of small feline joys that I felt I needed to cut them short. Until he simply put his head down.
It has been almost eighteen years since I found him starving in that storm sewer. He was the pinkest cat in all creation — literally, in some lights, peach pink. He had silky tufts between his toes, and a tail like a gigantic plume (when he hadn’t licked it bald from his annual bout of allergies). He never exactly ran after he was two years old or so — he sort of stumped — and cat toys, we joked, chased him. But he knew how to be imperial. He had to have a complete sex change surgery because his plumbing kept stopping up, and he never (because the surgery hurt his hind end so much) used the box again, preferring bath mats. I own more bath mats than you want to know about. He outlived two younger cats and the husband I had. My late and ex used to fret that his many ailments and frailties would mean a short life; I said “We all know people like that. They live forever.” I was right.
He used to stand on my back with his amazingly big paws when I did Yoga, and I would rely on him, in his porch-sitting dotage, to enjoy the sunny days that I never have time to breathe in. All cats do that, but he did it best.
All his life he was comical, yet grand.
My onetime husband was firmly agnostic as to humans but chose wilfully to believe in a divinity that watched over cats. I would like to think of some sort of light coming back to him.
O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht ich im Himmel sein!
Da kamm ich auf einer breiten Weg;
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis an das ewig selig Leben!
O little red rose!
One languishes in need,
One lingers in great pain.
So dearly would I rather be in Heaven.
So came I there to a broad road,
And an angel stood and made to prevent me:
“Ah, no, you shall not prevent my passing:
I am from God, and will go forth again to God,
the loving God, the beloved God,
will give me a light:
will light me to the everlasting, blessed life.”